Early riser is disrupting our sleep a... - CHADD's ADHD Pare...

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Early riser is disrupting our sleep and I’m so so tired!

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3yo has been in the habit of waking anywhere between 5/5:30 most mornings for the past year (I guess close to around the time he moved out of the nursery and crib and into a shared room with his two older siblings). He’s my third child and my first early riser.

The first problem is he wants everyone else up when he’s up, so he wakes his older brother and sister and then they all come crashing into my husband’s and my bed and proceed to act like they’re training for MMA.

The second issue is I’m concerned no one has been getting enough sleep since this all started. My 9yo can sometimes go back to sleep when it’s a really early morning, but my 6yo is just up with his younger brother from then on and THEY ARE SO LOUD AND ROWDY. My husband (when he’s home—he does shift work) and I find ourselves angry by the all the noise and very wild playing/rough housing and desperate for more sleep. If we do manage to occupy them for any length of time so we can squeeze in a little more sleep, the 3yo gets into stuff he shouldn’t. They at least stay upstairs and I have combination locks all over the house but it’s just not possible to keep my kids out of stuff without constantly being physically there to stop them, which also isn’t possible 100% of the time).

3yo will usually sleep closer to 6am if he hasn’t napped during the day, which is still early for me (a night owl) but more reasonable. However, he becomes even more hyper and aggressive in the afternoons/evenings if he hasn’t napped.

I just don’t know what to do. I’ve tried all the things to keep him occupied quietly and too distracted to get into stuff he shouldn’t in the mornings but nothing consistently works. I’ve tried an okay to wake clock (kids immediately figured out how to override the toddler lock). I’ve given them special, morning only toys. I’ve let them watch cartoons. I’ve let them rearrange their beds, mattresses and blankets into forts in their room. I’ve tried incorporating my ideal morning expectations into our token system, but it’s an area that has proven extremely difficult to address. There’s just always so much noise and never enough sleep.

I don’t expect him to stay in bed, but it would be nice if he would stop waking his siblings and just play quietly for a while (maybe on the floor in my room or in the upstairs loft area) so the rest of us can get a little more sleep.

Sorry for the long post—the sharing is partly just how I process. I’m at a loss. I’m tired and frustrated. I feel like I’m being tortured and I feel helpless to improve the situation.

6 Replies

Do you have a sense of what is causing him to wake up so early? How much total sleep is he getting, including the occasional nap? They should need ~10-13 hours/night.

For our kids, it just seems to be their circadian rhythm, unfortunately. What is the consequence for waking you up early? Maybe they should lose something, like morning TV time, or a special breakfast treat, if they do it.

You might consider trying:

1. An earlier bedtime (I know, it seems counter-intuitive)

2. A bedtime routine (we do a bath with the Dr. Teal's nighttime bubble bath)

3. A bedtime snack (maybe he's waking up hungry)

4. Room conditions, like white noise, sleeping with the door shut, A/C or heat (depending on climate - it is easier to sleep when it's cold)

5. Environmental things (maybe he wakes up when the heat comes on)and

If all else fails, you can consider a sleep study or medication (in our case, we do Clonidine 30 minutes before bedtime to help with sleep.) We also limit exciting morning activities, like screens, that can encourage an early wake up.

Good luck. 5:30 is the worst!

Thanks for taking the time to read my post and respond!

I’ve read countless books on how to help your kids with sleep issues; evidently, early waking is more common in boys. And because I have had sleep issues my whole life, I did everything I could from day one with all of my kids to try to prevent those issues for them, but it seems some of us are just wired to be night owls or early risers (in his case, both unless he gets a child’s sleep aid with a small amount of melatonin). I do know, at least, he is definitely getting plenty of sleep in a 24-hr period—I can’t say the same is true for myself or my husband. And since he started consistently waking his siblings, we’ve had to move their bedtime earlier so they have the best chance of getting enough sleep.

We have a great bedtime routine including no screens for over two hours before bed, dim lighting and relaxing music, a bath with calming essential oils and/or epsom salt, white noise machine and blackout curtains, thermostat stays at 65* etc.

He’s in bed by 7 every night. When he’s napped, he’s usually asleep almost immediately, and if he has napped, he’s asleep by 8. I don’t think we can realistically move his bedtime any earlier (especially with these long summer days and three other kids to consider and me here at bedtime alone most nights). He averages 12-13hrs sleep/day. The issue doesn’t appear to be related to bedtime or sleeping through the night. It would seem he’s just a true morning lark.

As far as consequences of waking us so early, we have made it a rule that there are no screens before 6am, and morning screen time before breakfast must be earned by staying quiet while the rest of us are still in bed, but most days, he’s just not able: he wakes up bright eyed and bushy tailed, and being the extrovert he is, he expects playmates to play with and talk to.

The one thing I haven’t experimented with much is intentionally limiting his nap time. On the days he naps, it’s usually 2-3hrs. He’s super cranky without any nap at all, but I think maybe a even shorter nap could help with that (maybe 90min instead of 2-3hrs).

The main issue is really about helping him be considerate of everyone who’s still sleeping when he wakes up. And because he’s still so young, I’m afraid I’m gonna have to suck it up and be prepared to get up with him when he wakes so I can bring him downstairs right away, which isn’t easy for me (Ive always struggles to get enough, which has become even more of an issue since becoming a mother—surprise, surprise!).

The other part that’s still problematic is the fact he almost always wakes at least his 6y brother (if not both the siblings with whom he shares a room) before I even know he’s awake and then 2 or 3 kids are up making noise (how is it 2 kids sound like 5 and 3 sound like 10?) and rough housing.

I suspect it’s just a phase in life. He might always be an early riser (my dad is up and ready at 4:30 everyday without an alarm and has been for as long as he can remember), but hopefully he won’t always be so loud and mischievous. Thanks for letting me share!

Sounds like you are on top of it! My boys are wired the same way. We actually started down the path of a sleep study for my 5 year old, and the physician mentioned that some people just have a circadian rhythm that makes them early risers. Given your husband, this is likely the case with your son!

Best of luck. Know that you are not alone. We are thrilled with even a 6am wake up in our house! Let's hope the teen years bring more sleep.

Every night before bed I put out a little request to the universe to please let us all sleep at least until 6am. I will say, despite the bedtime woes we’ve had to overcome, we did have a good run of about 6 years with our kids sleeping through the night and not waking until 7am, so there’s that. My oldest had a really hard first couple of years—from the time she was born until around her 2nd birthday, she would only sleep if she was touching me in bed and woke almost every 1-2 hours to nurse back to sleep. It was so hard, but somehow we managed. I’ve been so grateful we at least don’t have night wakings with kids refusing to go back to sleep.

I don't have any suggestions but at least I sympathize. Our 5yo son sleeps for about 11 hours max at night. During the week that's fine; we usually put him to bed at 7:30pm and he wakes around 6:30am which is when our morning alarm goes off, or a bit later (sometimes sleeps until 7am). Weekends are hard though, we try to push his bedtime a bit later (closer to 8pm) but sometimes he's still up at 6:30am or occasionally earlier. And we stay up a bit later on Friday and Saturday night. So yes, I'm getting tired of being tired. But I don't want to move *our* bedtime up because sometimes the only time I can get things accomplished (or watch kid-inappropriate things) is after he goes to bed.

I just wanted to extend my sympathy. I don't have a lot of good advice other than to just hang in there. Sometimes you can do everything right and you can't change it.

My son just turned 9 and in addition to adhd has been diagnosed with "sleep disorder". When he was little he was ALWAYS up by 5/5:30, sometime 4:30AM. He started sleeping through the night last year. I was SO EXHAUSTED all the time. We originally would just give him cartoons and a snack and go back to bed because otherwise I wasn't going to be able to make it through the day, but then he started waking up early to watch cartoons so we had to make the rule no tv/electronics before 7 so he has nothing to entice him to get up earlier. Maybe truly he just needs a little less sleep or on the low end of what's recommended? What happens if you push his bedtime back an hour as long as he's still napping? Or in our case, no nap was the way to go even though he fell apart later in the day because otherwise he wouldn't fall asleep until 10/10:30.

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